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Monday, April 14, 2008

Is It Me?

I'm so disturbed by CNN's "presidential faith forum" that I am wondering if I am reacting in some idiosyncratic way? Here's the transcript.

I do not like having political candidates invited to talk about their relationship to the Holy Spirit. It is not because I am against religion. I am very religious in a pretty fundamentalist Christian way, so that is not the problem.Talking about one's faith is appropriate in church or temple, but should this type of question have any place in a political context?
BROWN: Let's talk about your faith. And we warned people the questions tonight would be pretty personal. So I want to ask you. You said in an interview last year that you believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. And you have actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions.

Share some of those occasions with us.
This totally perturbs me. It's not because of this concern that it does:
And, Senator, there are a lot of Americans who are uncomfortable with the conversation that we're having here tonight. That they believe religion already has way too much influence in political life and public life. How do you reassure them?
The political ramifications of people's private philosophies and faiths are a proper matter of external political debate, because they have external real-world ramifications that CAN be debated. If you believe that the lives of the other human beings walking around out there have as much importance as your own, surely that is going to become evident in your policy recommendations. Their proper place is in the policy debate, and not first and foremost in a religious framework. So of course private beliefs do end up in the public square, and they have every right to be there.

Those who claim otherwise are either idiots who do not understand the Constitution or fools who understand it but believe that it would be wise to subvert it. As long as individuals have basic moral tenets, those fundamental precepts will underpin a lot of political measures. There is no way of avoiding that.

But who can debate or discuss someone's relationship with the Holy Spirit? It is not even proper in the Christian tradition to do so outside of certain extremely prescribed bounds. For one thing, doing so places people into the risk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which Jesus put in an utterly different category of sin - sin that cannot be forgiven. So a Christian who encourages other Christians to start talking about the Holy Spirit in such a context is doing something equivalent to sending one's kids out to play ball on the highway median. It's just not right!

Nor does religion inform, for example, the question of environmentalism:
And where I think potentially religious faith and the science of global warming converge is precisely because it's going to be hard to deal with.

We have to find resources in ourselves that allow us to make those sacrifices where we say, you know what? We're not going to leave it to the next generation. We're not going to wait.

OBAMA: We are going to put in place a cap-and-trade system that controls the amount of greenhouse gases that are going into the atmosphere. And we know that that requires us to make adjustments in terms of how we use energy. We've got to be less wasteful, both as a society and in our own individual lives.

And having faith, believing that this planet and this world extends beyond us, it's not just here for us, but it's here for, you know, more generations to come. I think religion can actually bolster our desire to make those sacrifices now.
Blahblahblah. Is is really true that an atheist or agnostic would be less convinced that the planet will be around after he is dead, or that preserving the environment is less important for his children? Give me a break! How darned insulting! I have railed against the Bill Moyers' type of "fundamentalists want to drown your children" rhetoric, but you know, two wrongs don't make a right. Whether one believes that a carbon cap and trade system is good policy is going to be based on the degree of CO2-based danger you perceive and the likely immediate effects of such a system. I doubt atheism or faith will make a difference. This is an example of how faith should not be used in public debate.

It raises my opinion of McCain that he did not participate.

I don't want to write very much about this, because I will fall into the same error I believe this forum displays. I will close by pointing out that if Lieberman were a presidential candidate, I do not believe that this forum would have been held, or at least not held in this way. That would not have been the least beneficial consequence of his candidacy.

Maybe it's me. Maybe it's not. I would like to get other people's reactions, because I was amazed at the strength of my aversion.


Comments:
I just read the transcript and I understand your reactions. I will have to say though, that I am not surprised in the least that such a strong "religious" tone is coming about these days. In lieu of the fact that the continual conflict in the middle east is based so much on extreme religious ideology and people in this country have hidden fears of its invasion/attacks into their lives and everything they have worked for. The political candidates all know this. People want and need answers on deeper levels...and, I almost get the feeling they are being toyed with, with all this throwing around of religious language in order to win the Presidency. That is simply not right!!!

We live in interesting times, for sure, and one can only hope that with all this "religious playing" comes an even greater search for "truth" in the American people.
 
This is the old "faith versus facts argument". Some people require more facts and logic than others, but we humans have a genetic predisposition to explore and understand. Its much easier to use faith than to research alternatives and change our present thinking. In the end, whether its religion or global warming the truth shall win. I don't know if we are willing to accept the consequences if we are wrong.
 
C S Lewis once remarked that if you want to feed the hungry, you don't necessarily need a Christian, but you do need a cook.

Much of the current "religious" rhetoric seems intended to demonstrate the speaker's virtue...whether or not his ideas will actually *work* seems increasingly to be viewed as irrelevant.

This kind of political dialogue reminds me of the typical TV ad for a brokerage...."we understand your deepest hopes and dreams, blah blah blah." People would be better served if their brokers would pay more attention to the practicalities of investing, and their politicians would do likewise with the practicalities of governing.
 
Some thoughts, without having read the whole transcript--I read part. And I'm speaking as a Christian nonfundamentalist here.

I don't think that saying you've experienced God's grace in your life comes close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

The Democrats are desperate to appeal to people of faith--they have to overcome their reputation as Godless atheists-- and this forum is supposed to address that.

having faith, believing that this planet and this world extends beyond us, it's not just here for us, but it's here for, you know, more generations to come. I think religion can actually bolster our desire to make those sacrifices now.

This clarifies that Obama is not one of the we-think-the-rapture-will-come-any-minute-so-why-protect-the-environment types who have received a lot of press in the past few years. Which is good because I don't want an apocalyptic as president. It's important to protect the environment in a sane, smart, and sustainable way, and the Christian concept of stewardship is appropriate there.

I don't think candidates can get away with ignoring religious issues anymore--whether this is a good development or not, it's where we are-- and at least now I have the opportunity (once I finish the transcript) to see where they stand.
 
No,It is not just you.It bothered me enough that I stopped reading.I will only say that Faith,in My experience,is demonstrated through actions.
 
Viola - interesting. This, ah, forum seemed facile to me too.

David & Anon - my problem is that theological beliefs have nothing to do with whether you know how to bake bread. Or plant wheat. In the political realm, the "how" should dominate. I don't think there is too much real debate on the "what". Where there is, of course, a debate is necessary. Iraq is an example of that.

Joy - I really want to avoid talking about the Holy Spirit, but what purpose does its mention serve in such a framework if the mention is merely "I have experienced it"? Isn't that sort of "I am in the club"? I don't get it.

The idea that the US has any large group of rapture fanatics who don't think we need to take care of the environment was a made up thing, and in any case it's enough for a candidate to have environmental policies to prove that the candidate is not one of those Unicorns of the NY Times. So why is it necessary to draw religion into it?

The people Howard Dean convinced himself were voting on religious issues weren't, at least judging my my neck of the woods. I've asked around, and people in other areas seem to agree.

I don't think the Democrats ever had a reputation as Godless atheists. Where did you come up with that? What's hurt the Democrats in rural areas hasn't been religion - it's been what seemed to be pandering to special interests to a degree that lost sight of common sense and the common welfare.

If I were a Democrat I wouldn't be that worried, because the Republicans are doing the same thing! The last thing either the GOP or the Dems need to do is start running around talking about religion and avoiding real issues. Those people in those rural areas used to be voting straight Dem, and they were going to church back when they did.
 
MOM, maybe my perspective is different because I do know a lot of fundamentalists who say "well we don't need to worry about it because Jesus is coming back soon" and consider the most strident and offensive statement made by NARAL to be the voice of the Democratic Party. So maybe there are not many, but they're definitely not made up (meet my mother-in-law... or go to Rapture Ready or any non-liberal Christian forum).

Here is an article on what the Democrats have been dealing with in terms of reaching out to people of faith
http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/1208075533232451.xml&coll=2
--in certain circles there really is a "you can't be a Christian and be a Democrat" sentiment. The Democratic Party wants to portray itself as serving the needs of other people than secular liberals.

(I don't know why they were talking about the Holy Spirit either, but reading the transcript, Clinton did her best to try to answer the question posed--she didn't bring it up, at least not in that forum. It's not like what she said is all that unusual--a lot of religous people have the feeling that God is with them at certain points in their lives). I'm really interested in religious topic and I found the forum interesting, although not particularly useful in making a voting decision.
 
Separation of church and state is necessary.

Logical voters better make themselves heard more. more.

Again, will state we need a Logic Party.


independent

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Bill Moyers? He was a lying PR spokesperson for LBJ...and libs and PBS have no memory?
He's a dullard slick enough to get what he wants in my estimation. And, he gets them (aka taxpayers paying for PBS & NPR still) to bankroll his projects and takes a profit from.
 
Joy - Oh, I absolutely agree - she answered the question. I just wonder why the question was asked? What purpose or relevance does it have for a campaign?
 
I have to agree with Joy that the democrat candidates, and the party to large degree, are trying to re-invent themselves into the party of faith. Unfortunately, I believe that it is for purely opportunistic reasons-they are willing to compromise this faith to embrace euthenasia and abortion. Either they are simply wooing more voters or, they are attempting to deny their opposition of an important part of their traditional constituency.

I'm sure that both democrat candidates attended the forum as a result of the close race in the state where it was held, as well as the national exposure on CNN. And, for Mr. Obama it was a further opportunity to highlight his professed Christianity (as opposed to the suspicions driven by both his name and his church's friendly dispositiontoward the nation of islam organization) as well as address his most recent slip up on a national stage (isn't it amusing how he has had prayerful convocations at many of his events since that gaffe!). While i'm not sure wether Mr. McCain would have attended if the republican nomination were still in sway, I lean toward saying no. He seems to be a man that believes in the privacy of religious belief, on the hypocrisy of publicly seeking affirmation by being demonstrative of that faith, as well as the constitutional tradition of a separation of church and state.

I believe that religion has an important place in our national culture. It is impossible to ignore the role that judeo-christian values played in the birth of our nation, and the shaping the basic premise of the US constitution. Having said that, I agree with MOM that questioning presidential candidates about the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives feel untoward. It straddles the line between church and state at best; regardless of the religious diversity of the audience. And, within the construct of Christianity as a belief, I believe that it encourages a behavior akin to the pharisees-public demonstrations of their enlightened holiness.
 
I have to agree with Joy that the democrat candidates, and the party to large degree, are trying to re-invent themselves into the party of faith. Unfortunately, I believe that it is for purely opportunistic reasons-they are willing to compromise this faith to embrace euthenasia and abortion. Either they are simply wooing more voters or, they are attempting to deny their opposition of an important part of their traditional constituency.

I'm sure that both democrat candidates attended the forum as a result of the close race in the state where it was held, as well as the national exposure on CNN. And, for Mr. Obama it was a further opportunity to highlight his professed Christianity (as opposed to the suspicions driven by both his name and his church's friendly dispositiontoward the nation of islam organization) as well as address his most recent slip up on a national stage (isn't it amusing how he has had prayerful convocations at many of his events since that gaffe!). While i'm not sure wether Mr. McCain would have attended if the republican nomination were still in sway, I lean toward saying no. He seems to be a man that believes in the privacy of religious belief, on the hypocrisy of publicly seeking affirmation by being demonstrative of that faith, as well as the constitutional tradition of a separation of church and state.

I believe that religion has an important place in our national culture. It is impossible to ignore the role that judeo-christian values played in the birth of our nation, and the shaping the basic premise of the US constitution. Having said that, I agree with MOM that questioning presidential candidates about the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives feel untoward. It straddles the line between church and state at best; regardless of the religious diversity of the audience. And, within the construct of Christianity as a belief, I believe that it encourages a behavior akin to the pharisees-public demonstrations of their enlightened holiness.
 
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